Preparing for Sparring

We’ve been doing a lot more karate in class since I talkd to Hanshi, and by the looks of the drills he’s asking us to do, he will ask me to try sparring sometime soon. I can’t say I’m afraid of this, but I will say that I’m hesitant—hesitant because I don’t trust my knees right now. In sparring, I’ll need to be flexible and light, moving and bouncing easily, shifting stances and weight distribution with confidence. Healthy knees are pretty crucial to all of those things.

That being said, he worked us hard for an hour today and I held up without knee pain. We did several sparring combos, first in a line facing the mirror and next with partners. One drill was a combination front grab, reverse punch, front round kick. Another was a combination reverse punch, front round kick, front side kick. We also practiced cross foot round kicks where, at the last second, you cross your front foot on a line with the back foot (switching places) with deeply bent knees to prepare for a round kick. Hanshi says it’s our job to take these drills and work with them. He says that even though we may never do them in class again, they’re another tool for our tool box

In all of these combinations I learned that I still move with stop-action between blows. Once I administer a blow, I need to pull back with just as much power and speed: “Three times the speed equals three times the reverse action.” Hanshi demonstrates the fluidity of these movements for me with my sparring partner, Jeff, then turns to me and says, “Now it’s your turn. Just do it a little tai qi style, think flow, think movement not stop action.”

We worked kata during class today as well, and I learned that my shuto blocks in wunsu kata need to come off more quickly, like a snap, and my nose needs to be lined up with my pinky, the blade of my hand turned slightly outward. In a proper horse stance, the back is completely flat and stable.

By the end of class, everybody was dripping with sweat. We must have thrown five hundred kicks between the basics in the mirror and the sparring drills. It felt good to get a solid workout in and even better to start honing my skills again. And after we bowed to the kamiza, to Hanshi, and to yudansha, breaking up the line for the next class, Hanshi gave me a little pat on the back. It wasn’t punctuated by any words, but it was a definite, intentional pat on the back—a moment of connection, and the first once, really, since I spoke to him about my difficulties. It set me sailing for the rest of the day.

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